PHILIPSBURG:--- The United People's Party (UP Party) has expressed heartfelt gratitude to the general public and the more than seven hundred attendees who made the UP Party's 2023 Convention an unparalleled success. Held on Sunday, August 13, at the esteemed Aleeze Convention Center, the event was a remarkable display of unity, strength, and meticulous organization.
Distinguished by an impressive parade, the convention saw the dynamic leadership duo of Member of Parliament, the Honorable Rolando Brison, securing his reelection as the UP Party leader, and Minister Omar Ottley officially being elected as the Deputy Leader. The resounding parade reflected the party's unwavering dedication to the advancement of St. Maarten and its people. It featured dozens of motorcycles, vehicles, and a drum band to bring the group to the Convention Center.
A pivotal moment during the convention was the election of a new board, with Eugene Heyliger taking the helm as the new President of the UP Party. Heyliger will be joined by a team of accomplished individuals, including Natasha Manuela-Gumbs, Marc Kenly, Kimberly Blair, Cresburk Browne, Francisco Lacroes, and Franklin Patrick. This collaborative leadership is poised to guide the UP Party toward an era of progress and prosperity.
The convention also featured a heartfelt salute to six local associations for their outstanding contributions to St. Maarten. The Indian Merchants IMA Association, Dominica Foundation Sint. Maarten DFD, the United Haitian Council SXM, the Haitian Association of Sint-Maarten HASMA, the Foundation Semana Dominicana, and the St. Maarten Guyanese Association SMGA were honored for their instrumental roles in fostering economic growth and enhancing social development. Each association received a plaque with the inscription: "The United People's Party proudly recognizes (each foundation) for their outstanding contributions to advancing the St. Maarten economy and enhancing social development. Your unwavering commitment has played a pivotal role in fostering an inclusive and thriving community. Sincere appreciation for your invaluable dedication."
Special recognition was also bestowed upon the three Founding Members of the UP Party: Mr. Theodore Heyliger, Mrs. Brenda Wathey, and former Member of Parliament for the UP Party, Mr. Franklin Meyers. Franklin Meyers, who also delivered an insightful keynote speech during the congress, articulated the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead for the new government and the imperative role each new UP Party candidate will play in the betterment of St. Maarten. The plaque for the founding members read, "As a founding member of the United People's Party on St. Maarten since 2010, your visionary leadership has shaped our core values of democracy and inclusion, setting the blueprint for present and future members. Your dedication to a strong, united, and prosperous society is greatly appreciated."
Several other prominent figures were also honored for their dedication and commitment to the party's mission. The UP Party acknowledged the vital contributions of past board members, presidents, and supporters, presenting plaques to Sylvia Meyers, Earl Wyatt, Gina Illidge, Micheal Maghiro, Alston Laurence, Tatana Arrindell, Solange Apon, Stuart Johnson, and Rosina Romeo. Gina Illidge, in particular, is known for her extensive contributions to the party's campaign strategy over the years. Their plaque commended their "unwavering dedication as a board member, organizer, and executor of events" and acknowledged their valuable role in the party's success.
A touching moment of remembrance was observed as over seven hundred attendees stood in silence to honor the late Joseph Richardson, credited with the creation of the United People's Party and his years of offering guidance to its leadership.
Deputy leader of the UP Party, Minister Ottley, outlined his accomplishments during his short term in office, including progress on the construction of the new General Hospital and plans for a Living Wage. In his speech, MP Brison shared personal growth experiences and underscored his commitment to introducing a pay-to-stay immigration policy to protect the local working class.
A highlight of the event was a motivational speech by Terrence Drew Jr., son of St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Drew. He encouraged youth involvement in shaping their future, emphasizing positive contributions to society, business development, and addressing environmental concerns, amongst others. The UP Next faction of the United People's Party presented him with a T-Shirt and Cap reading "I am UP NEXT."
Susie Camille Roma was a notable figure in the political landscape of the former Netherlands Antilles. Serving as Prime Minister on two separate occasions, her dedication to her country and her commitment to progress was evident throughout her career. She was scheduled to speak at the Congress in person, but a prior engagement kept her away in Holland.
Still, she sat with a camera crew in Holland to record a message, part of which was played during the Congress. The entire message can be viewed on the UP Party's new Facebook page. In this message, Roma highlighted the importance of St. Maarten and other former islands of the Netherlands Antilles to assert their self-sufficiency. Her message underscored the need for these islands to forge their distinct paths in the global arena. Her legacy inspires those striving for self-determination and effective governance within diverse and evolving political landscapes.
The United People's Party extends its sincerest thanks to all attendees, honorees, and participants for making the 2023 Convention a memorable and impactful event, marking a significant step toward a brighter future for St. Maarten. At the end of his address, party leader MP Brison brought the candidates in attendance on stage one by one while commenting briefly on their unique abilities, which will be invaluable to the voters when they go to the polls in 2024. Notably, a special acknowledgment was extended to the President of Parliament, Sidharth 'Cookie' Bijlani, and Lyndon Lewis. Both are candidates on the UP slate but were off-island during the congress.
MP Brison elaborated on the circumstances, highlighting that Bijlani recently underwent significant surgery abroad, and thankfully, he is making a positive recovery, displaying resilience and enthusiasm to participate in the upcoming 2024 Parliamentary Election. Lewis, also a former candidate, is returning to engage in the elections but has been attending to personal family matters abroad.
Despite their physical absence, both Bijlani and Lewis conveyed their support and regrets for missing the congress through video messages. They underscored their unwavering commitment to the UP Party, its board, and its leadership, reinforcing their dedication to its vision and goals.